Well, reading buddies, my interest in "cowboy romance" continues. It is the strangest thing . . . just not something I even understand, but I guess some of this interest is due to the years we lived in Idaho and also for a couple of years in Salinas, CA where the huge rodeo is held every year, one of the three largest in the U. S., or so I was told.
Anyway, I found this book online and because it involved the widow of a 9/11 firefighter victim, I found my curiosity engaged and I found this to be a very good book. First in the "Wilder Series" it is the introduction to the Wilder family of brothers and their sister, all of whom were raised in a small community near Laramie, Wyoming and whose lives have been totally involved with horse and cattle ranching. Chase Wilder is known throughout the area as a breeder of first class quarter horses and Abigail Carter buys the property right next door, a house and property that have been vacant for some time. She is seeking a new surrounding and freedom from the crush of city living while she pursues the dream of breeding and raising horses which both she and her deceased husband hoped to experience sometime in the future. For Abigail, the future is now, and with the death of Josh, she is free to move forward. But that is very difficult, not only because of the normal grieving process, but because of the circumstances and because she and her mother both are intuitive, empathic people. She is "stuck" on the fact that on September 11 she "knew" something dark and terrible was going to happen. She just didn't realize it was going to happen to her Josh.
Chase Wilder is "stuck" as well . . . his wife died in an accident two years previously and he, too, blames himself for that event. His guilt over his preoccupation with his breeding business and the lack of paying attention that particular day to his wife's demands have convinced him that she would not have died had he been more attentive and responsive to her requests. Wherever the truth may lie for both these individuals, they are both riveted to the past.
Abby had driven snow covered roads in New York all her life, so a snow covered road in Wyoming doesn't scare her. But the severe Wyoming winds and weather take their toll and before she knows it, she is in a ditch, and the first person to find her is Chase Wilder. Out of that initial encounter comes the knowledge that they are attracted to one another. This becomes even more obvious when Abby "feels" that Chase has been injured and finds him in a bad way with a broken leg from being kicked by a stallion. Now they are thrown together daily as Abby feeds and cares for Chase's horses and because she is cooking and cleaning for him until he is back on his feet. Bottom line: they are both turned on, but neither is remotely interested in any kind of relationship so the course of true love does not run smooth with these two as the play the came of "come here, go away" repeatedly. Abby even dates one of the emergency room doctors who attended her following her accident, but the spark just isn't there.
At the heart of this story is the fact that neither Abby or Chase can get past their sense of personal failure in the deaths of their spouses. The author has used the literary device of "ghosts" of these two spouses as a representation of how such a sense of guilt can dampen any movement toward the future and any healthy processing of the loss. In Abby's case, Josh is urging her to find love, to recognize that he will always be a part of her, but that she must move on to a new love. Chase's wife, on the other hand, is jeolous and possessive in death just as she was in life and her efforts to keep Abby out of her house and her husband's affections is quite persistent. But this is not a ghost story, and points up the struggles any husband or wife must endure when they experience the loss of a spouse. It truly is like an emotional amputation.
In all the novels in this series the presence of the Wilder clan play an important part. Chase certainly is his own man, but he demonstrates many of the qualities his family has taught him and even when he is torn between his attraction to Abby and his loyalty to his dead wife, he is still trying to be an honorable and caring man. This is a very nice love story, that is beautifully written and which reads smoothly. The Wilder Family are people we would probably all like to know in real life and are individually and collectively upstanding and honorable people. Don't for a minute think this is a dull romance. It is anything but. There are surprises and upheavals, emotional ups and downs, some ghostly appearances and lots of family support. And behind the closed doors, there's some hot loving as well.
So if you are in the mood for a very nice cowboy romance, Sandy Sullivan has given us one that will satisfy and entertain. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.